Charged with shooting at Miss Frances Maria Kelly, Actress, in Drury Lane Theatre, 17th of February, 1816
THE prisoner was indicted for shooting a pistol loaded with powder and shot at Miss F. M. Kelly, during her performance on the stage of Drury Lane Theatre.
Mr Nathan Harris, on the evening of the 17th of February, was in the pit of Drury Lane Theatre, about the eighth row. He saw the prisoner about two rows before him, who stood up during the performance of the farce. Miss Kelly and Mr Knight were on the stage at the moment, embracing each other, in the characters of Nan and Joey, in the farce of The Merry Mourners. After they had parted, Miss Kelly was retreating backwards towards the stage door, when witness observed the prisoner, elevated above all the people around him, with his right hand pointing slanting towards the spot where Miss Kelly was standing. Witness saw a flash come from his hand, and heard the report of a pistol, and reached across to him instantly and seized him. He said: "I am not the man who fired it; don't take me." Witness said he was sure he was the man. At this time the prisoner had dropped the pistol. Witness had seen the wadding drop at the moment of the flash. The prisoner was then secured, taken out of the theatre, and searched. In his pocket was found a small block-tin case full of gunpowder.
Mr Birnie asked him how he came to fire a pistol in a public theatre. He said it was to make an alarm. Witness then asked him how he came to point it so. His answer was "She can explain."
Mr Rorer went to the theatre to ascertain the direction of the shot, and found marks of shot (very small) on the lamps on the stage door, near which Miss Kelly had been standing. He found some shot in the orchestra, as if they had struck against the boards and fallen down. Those which struck the door had left a mark two feet, nine inches from the floor.
Miss Kelly was now sworn, evidently under great embarrassment, and much affected. On the night in question she was performing at Drury Lane Theatre, saw a light, and at the same moment heard what she supposed to be a detonating ball. She had not the least acquaintance with the prisoner to her knowledge; had never seen him before that period, nor till this day. She had received two letters signed with the prisoner's name. She never answered them, or took the slightest notice of them, except to a friend.
John Baker was in attendance at Drury Lane Theatre on the 17th of February and saw Mr Taylor produce the pistol now put in; it appeared to have been recently discharged. (The pistol was of the same size as the one used by Bellingham, about six inches long.) While conveying the prisoner to Tothill Fields he asked him how he could think of doing so rash an act -- was it his intention to shoot Miss Kelly? The prisoner answered: " I tell you the pistol was not loaded with either ball or slugs." He admitted his intention was to shoot at Miss Kelly.
Samuel Dickons accompanied the last witness in taking the prisoner to Tothill Fields. The prisoner said he intended to kill Miss Kelly, in answer to a question from Baker. Baker then asked why he intended this. The prisoner answered: "She knows very well what it's for."
Mr Dowling now announced his intention to call evidence to prove the insanity of the prisoner.
John Crockets said he married the prisoner's mother. The prisoner when a boy was always reserved and gloomy; he would not play with other boys. At times he was very queer, and at his meals would burst out laughing without reason. He went to several places, but was always low and melancholy. Three or four days before this transaction he was particularly low.
Mrs Crockets, mother of the prisoner, said he was the son of Mr Barnett, who was a waiter at the Piazza Coffee-House. She remembered his return from Sevenoaks. He seemed very ill, melancholy and low-spirited. The last week before this affair he appeared very uneasy and uncomfortable.
Mr Norcroft, a law stationer, with whom the prisoner had worked for a year, deposed that in his opinion his close application to business had injured his health. He was correct in business till a day or two before the offence with which he was charged. He then appeared in a very disturbed state of mind.
Mr Claridge was at Sevenoaks when the prisoner was in his father's employment. He once observed the prisoner standing opposite a gentleman's house at Sevenoaks, gazing earnestly at the windows. He was surrounded by a mob, who were mocking him. He was satisfied the prisoner was not then in his right mind.
Mr Baron Wood proceeded to sum up the evidence. With respect to the letters which had been read, he said that they bore evident symptoms of insanity.
The jury found the prisoner not guilty, on the ground of insanity, but he was detained in custody.